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Home » Vaccines approved for pregnant women — Tdap, RSV, COVID, flu

Vaccines approved for pregnant women — Tdap, RSV, COVID, flu


The CDC now recommends four vaccines for pregnant women to protect the mother, the developing fetus, and the newborn. These are the Tdap, RSV, COVID-19, and seasonal influenza vaccines which are now available widely in the USA.

I am going to review each of the vaccines and why they may be critical to the health of pregnant women and their babies.

pregnant woman in white dress walking on beach
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Recommended vaccines for pregnant women

Below is the list of recommended vaccines and the reasons why they may be critical to the health of the mother, developing fetus, and newborn baby.

  • Tdap vaccine — this adult vaccine protects the pregnant mother from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (known as whooping cough). Although the mother should be protected against diphtheria and tetanus, the key part of this vaccine is pertussis. Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial disease that causes strong coughing in the afflicted individual. It can be deadly to newborns because they cannot receive the DTaP vaccine (the version of the Tdap vaccine for children) until 2 months old, so they can be susceptible to the disease if the mother contracts it. In fact, many people want anyone who visits the newborn to have had the Tdap or DTaP vaccination.
  • RSV vaccine — this vaccine protects the mother against respiratory syncytial virus, which usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms in healthy adults. However, it can cause serious lung infections in babies. Like the whooping cough vaccine, the RSV vaccine protects the mother from RSV, thereby helping to protect the child from a more serious RSV infection. As of September 22, 2023, the CDC recommends an RSV vaccine during weeks 32–36 of pregnancy to protect babies from severe RSV.
  • COVID-19 vaccine — this vaccine protects the mother against COVID-19 which has short-term and long-term consequences. The CDC states that staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is recommended for people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future, and people who are breastfeeding. Like with whooping cough and RSV, protecting the mother from COVID-19 will also protect the newborn from the disease, which can be much more serious than to an adult. Moreover, mothers who contract COVID-19 have much worse pregnancy outcomes compared to mothers who were vaccinated.
  • Seasonal flu vaccine — this vaccine protects the mother against four strains of the influenza virus. Although a lot of people dismiss the flu as not being a dangerous disease, it is, in fact, very dangerous to everyone, including babies. The CDC recommends the vaccine to pregnant women who are in the third trimester during these months if the vaccine is available. Like the other vaccines, this protects the mother from getting the flu and passing it to the newborn, even though the newborn can get the vaccine. Furthermore, pregnant mothers who contract flu during pregnancy have a higher risk of poor pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth.

Summary

These vaccines are all recommended by the CDC to protect both the pregnant mother and her child. Although there are some, almost all minor, risks to getting the vaccine, the benefits of protecting against these diseases far outweigh those risks to both the mother and baby.

The CDC doesn’t pull these recommendations out of thin air — they are based on scientific data that the CDC reviews frequently. And based on that data, pregnant women should definitely receive these four vaccines.

Citations

  • Stock SJ, Carruthers J, Calvert C, Denny C, Donaghy J, Goulding A, Hopcroft LEM, Hopkins L, McLaughlin T, Pan J, Shi T, Taylor B, Agrawal U, Auyeung B, Katikireddi SV, McCowan C, Murray J, Simpson CR, Robertson C, Vasileiou E, Sheikh A, Wood R. SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 vaccination rates in pregnant women in Scotland. Nat Med. 2022 Jan 13. doi: 10.1038/s41591-021-01666-2. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35027756.
Michael Simpson

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